SAMFORD BASKETBALL: BULLDOGS EXPLODE FOR 78-54 SOCON WIN AT CHATTANOOGA
--- Samford's Davis scores a career-high 30 points in the victory ---
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --- In what was easily its best performance of the 2009-10 campaign, the Samford University basketball team registered a 78-54 Southern Conference victory against the Chattanooga Mocs on Wednesday at The McKenzie Arena. The 24-point win tied Samford's largest margin of victory this season.
"I'm proud of our team and how well they played tonight," said Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette. "After the way we played on our last road trip in Charleston, we knew that we were going to have to come out tonight and play with focus. We practiced very diligently the last two days and everybody understood that we needed to be better. I was happy to see that we showed that intensity tonight."
With Wednesday's win, Samford (10-15, 4-9 SoCon) snapped its season-long, five-game losing streak. The Bulldogs also defeated the Mocs for the first time since Feb. 21, 1974. Samford's win ended a 10-game losing streak against Chattanooga (13-13, 5-8 SoCon). The Mocs had their losing streak extended to three games.
The Bulldogs were paced offensively by junior Josh Davis who exploded for a career-high 30 points. Davis, whose previous career-high was 26 points scored earlier this season at Texas Tech, finished 10-of-17 from the field and 7-of-13 from 3-point range. Davis' seven 3-pointers tied his career high which was also achieved earlier this season against Appalachian State on Jan. 28.
As a team, Samford turned in a season-high 62.5-percent outing from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs finished 15-of-23 from 3-point range and knocked down 5-of-7 in the second half. Samford tallied a 61-percent mark from the field, while Chattanooga only shot 29.5 percent.
The Bulldogs' Jeffrey Merritt also notched his career high in scoring Wednesday. Merritt, Samford's gritty sophomore from Oklahoma City, Okla., finished with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor. He knocked down all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and added six rebounds and two assists.
"I thought Jeffrey Merritt played a very good game tonight," Tillette said. "He helped us get off to a good start and he also hit a lot of big shots for us. He's always been a good rebounder for us, but tonight he also provided a scoring spark that we needed from the arc."
Samford's Trey Montgomery was the third Bulldog to tally double figures in scoring. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and added five rebounds and three assists.
The Mocs concluded Wednesday's game with four players scoring in double figures. Ty Patterson, Chattanooga's leading scorer at 15.6 points per outing, registered a team-high 15 points, but was only 6-of-14 from the floor. Keegan Bell followed with 11 points, while Chris Early and Ricky Taylor added 10 points apiece.
With 16:23 to play in the second half, Chattanooga's Taylor drained a deep 3-point basket to trim Samford's lead to 40-38.
The Bulldogs then responded with key back-to-back 3-pointers from Merritt and Davis which sparked them on a game-changing 14-0 run to give Samford a quick 54-38 lead. During the Bulldogs' run, which only took 3:06 off the clock, Davis scored 11-consecutive points including a thunderous two-handed dunk on a fast break.
"Josh was able to hit his 3-point shot all night long, but I actually thought that the most dispiriting thing for Chattanooga was when he dunked the ball in transition," said Tillette. "That was also great for our team and for our momentum at that point in the game. That play really helped spur us on for the next six or seven minutes down the stretch."
Chattanooga, after surrendering the momentous 14-0 run to the Bulldogs, never got within nine points for the remainder of the game.
Samford out-rebounded the Mocs 39-25 and finished 13-of-16 (81.3 percent) from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs also outscored Chattanooga 20-10 in the paint and recorded 21 assists on 25 field goals.
"We talked about rebounding all this week and that was another thing we really worked hard on in practice this week," Tillette said. "I thought we did a really poor job in our last game against Charleston, and Charleston is not even a good rebounding team. We knew that we were going to have to come out and rebound the ball better tonight and we were able to do that."
Just days after turning in its worst first-half performance of the 2009-10 campaign, a 15-point output against College of Charleston on Saturday, Samford exploded for 38 first-half points versus Chattanooga on Wednesday. The Bulldogs tied their best first-half output of the season and led the Mocs 38-32 at the intermission.
Samford led by as many as 14 points in the opening period and held a 35-26 advantage with 3:01 to play in the first half. Chattanooga closed out the opening 20 minutes of play with a pair of deep 3-point baskets from Patterson and Taylor, while the Bulldogs' Montgomery also connected on a 3-point field goal.
Davis led Samford with 14 points in the first half of play. The Bulldogs' sharpshooter from Lubbock, Texas, knocked down four 3-point baskets in the opening period, while Merritt followed with seven points. Fellow sophomore guard Kaylin Johnson added five first-half points for Samford.
Chattanooga was paced in scoring by Bell, who tallied nine points in the opening period. All nine of his points came from beyond the arc as he connected on a trio of 3-point field goals. Patterson chipped in with seven first-half points for the Mocs.
Samford scored 20 points before the first media timeout of the game and held a 20-10 advantage at the 14:45 mark. The Bulldogs later went on to hold a 26-13 advantage following a 3-pointer from Bryan Friday with 10:52 to play in the first half.
The Samford University basketball team will next be in action Saturday at 2 p.m. (CST) as the Bulldogs play host to the Wofford Terriers at the Pete Hanna Center. Saturday's home game will be Samford's first in Birmingham, Ala., since Jan. 30.